When seeking an enduring taste of this city’s culinary heritage, look for preservatives. Smoke and salt have been used as methods of preserving foods far longer than New York has had a grid plan, but the ways in which these techniques were utilized by turn-of-the-century Eastern European immigrants established a subsection of local cuisine — appetizing — that was dominant for much of the 20th century.
Used as a noun, the term “appetizing” loosely describes the many pickled, smoked, cured, and cultured edibles served alongside bagels, and in many instances, the places that sell these goods are preserving traditions along with their fish. Their inextricable link to the city has recently reignited, as many relatives of early immigrants look to the past for inspiration while applying newly acquired techniques and culinary know-how. These New Kids on the Kreplach are working within an evolved terroir, but while they look to change the game, plenty of old guard shops have become rarefied destinations in their own right, sustaining a local clientele. Some feature table service, others aren’t much more than salty bodegas — all will give you a pungent taste of New York history. Here are the 10 best appetizing counters in NYC, perfect for noshing on some nostalgia.
Words by Zachary Feldman. Photos by Adam Robb.